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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Maps
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1135  Friday, 13 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 12:57:25 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 9.1125  Re: Maps

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 19:33:23 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1125  Re: Poland; Fortinbras; Maps; Ham. Qs


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 12:57:25 -0500
Subject: Re: Maps
Comment:        SHK 9.1125  Re: Maps

Michael Ullyott makes an important point: the virtual topography of the
history plays is of  far greater importance than the actual 'mapped'
terrain on which their action is located. The success of the Tudor
dynasty, for instance, ensured a complex centrality for Wales wholly at
odds with more recent perceptions of its status. Under Elizabeth
(denounced by A. L. Rowse as a 'Welsh harridan') Wales even lent a kind
of grounding respectability to the Tudor project of a new independent
national identity to be vested in something called 'Britain'.
'Presentist' criticism engages closely with these issues.

T. Hawkes

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 19:33:23 -0000
Subject: 9.1125  Re: Poland; Fortinbras; Maps; Ham. Qs
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1125  Re: Poland; Fortinbras; Maps; Ham. Qs

Michael Ullyot writes:

>It seems, then, unproductive to plot Shakespeare's settings onto
>existing topography, particularly in the interest of belittling his
>sense of basic geography (seacoasts in Bohemia, and the like), when what
>is really at work in plays like _The Winter's Tale_ are the forces of
>tyranny and reconciliation, taking place against a physical backdrop
>only incidental to their interplay-and that, even in the history plays,
>time and space are secondary considerations.

I'd concur with this and go further.  There's no need to belittle
Shakespeare's geography in this particular instance.  He was as well
aware that Bohemia didn't have a sea course as he was that the Oracles
of Apollo ceased with the birth of Christ.  Creating a play-world in
which Bohemia has a sea coast, and where clear references are made to
the New Testament by pagans who technically should be long dead before
the gospel is written deliberately dislocates the play from time and
space in order to universalise it.  The (relative) rareness of
geographical and temporal errors in Shakespeare's plays generally
suggests that their co-existence here is for a purpose.

I'd agree that a general discussion of the malleability of time and
space in Shakespeare would be useful, and suggest that _The Winter's
Tale_ can be usefully seen as an extreme case.

Robin Hamilton
 

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